CAAFlog » Military Justice Legislation

The DoD has formally published the proposed changes to the MCM necessary to implement the Military Justice Act of 2016 (previously discussed here).

The Federal Register notice is available here.

The folder is available here.

The folder includes a single, 636-page PDF titled Annex 1 & 2. Annex 1 is proposed revisions to the current MCM to take effect immediately upon promulgation by the President. Annex 2 is proposed revisions to take effect with the changes made my the MJA (anticipated to occur on January 1, 2019).

The Joint Service Committee is accepting public comments (including electronically at the link above) and will hold a public meeting in August:

Comments on the proposed changes must be received no later than September 11, 2017. A public meeting for comments will be held on August 3, 2017, from 10 a.m. until noon, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces building, 450 E Street, NW., Washington, DC 20442-0001. Commentators will be heard in order of arrival and check-in, and will be limited to five minutes.

I plan to both comment and attend the public meeting.

The Federal Register notice includes a request for comment on a specific proposed change to R.C.M. 1103A:

The Department of Defense also requests comments on a proposal by a Federal Advisory Committee, the Judicial Proceedings Since Fiscal Year 2012 Amendments Panel (JPP). The JPP’s June 2017 report suggested that Rule for Courts-Martial 1103A as proposed by Annex 1 and Rule for Courts-Martial 1113 as proposed by Annex 2 be further revised to include the following: “Prior to a decision to permit examination of material described in this subparagraph, notice and an opportunity to be heard shall be given to any person whose records are about to be examined and to appellate counsel.” The report making that recommendation is available at​Public/​docs/​08-Panel_​Reports/​07_​JPP_​VictimsAppRights_​Report_​Final_​20170602.pdf. The Department invites public comment on the JPP’s proposal.

R.C.M. 1103A allows appellate authorities – including counsel for the Government divisions and the appellant – to examine sealed matters attached to a record of trial. These sealed matters could – under increasingly rare circumstances – include private information pertaining to an alleged victim (such as mental health records) that were reviewed in camera but not otherwise disclosed at trial.

Last year the Air Force Appellate Government Division asked CAAF to prevent appellate defense counsel from reviewing such material, but CAAF rebuffed the request (discussed here and here). The JSC then proposed changing the R.C.M. to prevent such review (noted here). I submitted a public comment (discussed here) opposing the change. The change persists in this new round of proposals, and the JSC does not offer any rationale for it.

The House Armed Services Committee recently met to debate the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018. Congressman Steve Russell (R-OK) (a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Army) had some harsh words for critics of the UCMJ. In the course of a debate over a proposal to make court-martial panel selection random (taking from commanders the responsibility to select the members), Congressman Russell said this:

And again, I go back, Mr. Chairman. Honestly, I didn’t know that I was such a knuckle-dragger, that I was so closed minded, that I was a rapist, that I was a murderer, that I was a sexual assaulter, that I were all of these things until I came to Congress and often heard from my colleagues how horrible I was when I was in uniform as a commander and how incapable I was in being able to do justice and make decisions. But now I’ve learned that maybe I just didn’t realize who I was. What I would suggest is that, once again, we do not break the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It is the glue that holds our discipline and good order together.

Here’s a clip (link if video does not show below):

And here is a link to his full remarks in context.

Our #1 Military Justice Story of 2016 was the Military Justice Act of 2016. The Act makes the most significant changes to the UCMJ since the Military Justice Act of 1983. The changes won’t take effect until President Trump establishes an effective date that need only be no later than January 1, 2019.

Today a reader forwarded me the proposed revision to the MCM. The DoD will soon publish this proposal on the internet (pursuant to this approval dated Monday). The proposal includes the following three documents (each item is a link to the document hosted on CAAFlog):

A draft Executive Order indicating an effective date for the MJA of January 1, 2019.

Annex 1 to the draft Executive Order, making changes effective immediately once the Order is signed (at a glance, these change appear to be the JSC proposed changes for 2017 discussed in this post, about which I submitted a public comment discussed in this post).

Annex 2 to the draft Executive Order, making changes incorporating the MJA. Annex 2 is 619 pages and reproduces Parts I-V of the MCM in their entirety. It also includes an Appendix 2.1 (PDF page 605) containing non-binding disposition guidance for charges, and an Appendix 12A (PDF page 611) listing Presidentially-prescribed lesser included offenses.

This story in The Hill alerted me to the “Protecting the Rights of IndiViduals Against Technological Exploitation Act” (PRIVATE Act), H.R.2052, which passed the House with no nay votes on May 24, 2017, and has been referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee. A separate (but identical) bill was also introduced in the Senate (S.1296).

The bill proposes a new Article 117a of the UCMJ to prohibit the “wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images.” The text of the proposed article – which seems to avoid the problems I identified in the new Article 1168, U.S. Navy Regulations – is after the jump.

Read more »

Our #1 Military Justice Story of 2016 is the Military Justice Act of 2016, passed as Division E of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 and signed into law by President Obama on December 23, 2016.

A bookmarked PDF of the MJA is available here.

The Act was the product of the Military Justice Review Group, an internal DoD working group created by the Secretary of Defense to conduct a comprehensive review of the UCMJ. As an internal group the MJRG’s meetings and deliberations were closed to the public, and there was little subsequent public debate about the group’s 1,302 page report and legislative proposal. The House and Senate adopted the MJRG’s legislative proposal in differing degrees, and the final legislation was worked out in conference committee. It’s not everything the DoD wanted, but it’s pretty close, and it’s the most significant changes to the UCMJ since the Military Justice Act of 1983.

The changes won’t take effect until the President establishes an effective date that need only be sometime before January 1, 2019 (1st day of the 1st month two years after enactment). Yet while Congress gave the President up to two years to make the Act effective, it only allowed one year for revision of the Manual for Courts-Martial (perhaps in recognition of the fact that the White House has been painfully slow to act on draft executive orders forwarded by the Joint Service Committee).

Of course we’ll analyze the MJA in 2017, and we’ll keep reporting on developments in military justice for the eleventh year. Stay tuned.

The FY17 NDAA (link) – which includes major changes to the UCMJ (noted here) – has passed Congress and was sent to the President for signature on Wednesday.

The long awaited report of the conference committee considering the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 was just released. It is available here:

The conference version of the NDAA includes a great many significant changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In particular, the legislation adopts many – but not all – of the changes proposed by the Military Justice Review Group.

Some significant notes:

• The conference version does not eliminate members sentencing in non-capital cases. Instead, § 5182 amends Article 25 to give the accused the option to elect sentencing by members (when trial was before members) after the findings are announced.

• § 5164 of the conference version amends Article 20 to state that “a summary court-martial is a non-criminal forum. A finding of guilty at a summary court-martial does not constitute a criminal conviction.”

• § 5205 modifies a staff judge advocate’s pretrial advice to require only a probable cause determination rather than the current conclusion that “the specification is warranted by the evidence.”

• § 5330 modifies Article 66 to require automatic review by the courts of criminal appeals only in cases that include death, dismissal, a dishonorable or bad-conduct discharge, or confinement for two years or more. In cases involving confinement for more than six months or more (but less than two years) an accused may petition for review.

Edited to add: • § 5330 also preserves the requirement that a CCA “may affirm only such findings of guilty, and the sentence or such part or amount of the sentence, as the Court finds correct in law and fact and determines, on the basis of the entire record, should be approved.”

• § 5301 modifies Article 56 to allow the prosecution to appeal a sentence on the grounds that “(A) the sentence violates the law; or (B) the sentence is plainly unreasonable.”

• § 5301 modifies Article 56 requires a sentence adjudged by a military judge alone to be segmented (confinement and fine only) by offense. Where sentencing is by members, the court-martial will continue to adjudge a single sentence for all offenses.

As the Military Justice Act of 2015 works its way through Congress, a Legal Memorandum from the Heritage Foundation considers the proposed changes in the context of history, contemporary practice, and the press to modernize:

Paul Larkin and Charles “Cully” Stimson, The 2015 Report of the Military Justice Review Group: Reasonable Next Steps in the Ongoing Professionalization of the Military Justice System

[Update:  this event has been postponed due to weather issues.  We will update the post and provide a link to the new flyer when it is available]  On January 28, 2016, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, there will be a panel discussion of DoD’s proposed military justice legislation resulting, in part, from the work of the Military Justice Review Group (MJRG).  The panel is co-sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Armed Forces Law, in cooperation with the ABA’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security, and the Judge Advocates Association.  See details here.

I have not heard any postponement due to weather. [Update:  Well that’s not true now.]

Location:  Founders Room, Offices of Dentons US LLP, 1900 K Street, Washington DC, 20006

Moderator: The Honorable James Baker, former Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces


  • The Honorable Andrew Effron, former Director of the MJRG
  • Col. William N. Pigott, Chair, DoD Joint Service Committee on Military Justice
  • LtCol Julie Huygen, U.S. Air Force representative, Joint Service Committee on Military Justice
  • COL Walt Hudson, U.S. Army representative, Joint Service Committee on Military Justice
  • CAPT Warren A. Record, U.S. Navy representative, Joint Service Committee on Military Justice

There is no charge for this event, but the Committee asks that you please email to RSVP.

From the Code Committee, here:

This year’s meeting will be held at the Courthouse of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, 450 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20442-0001, at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. The agenda for this meeting will include consideration of proposed changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Manual for Courts-Martial, United States, and other matters relating to the operation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice throughout the Armed Forces.


The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (S.1356) was signed into law by the President last week.

A prior version of the legislation (H.R.1735) was vetoed late last month (discussed here).

The bill enacted last week contains 15 military justice provisions. They are identical to the provisions that were in the vetoed version of the bill. I discussed those provisions in this post.

That’s the word from this Poltico report:

IT’S VETO DAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: The White House has taken any drama out of whether President Barack Obama will veto the National Defense Authorization Act, as he has vowed to do: It has announced in his daily schedule that he’ll veto the bill this afternoon.

The fiscal 2016 NDAA will be just the fifth veto of Obama’s seven-year presidency and will spark a Republican offensive against him for politicizing the military in a budget fight. The House has already set up a veto override vote for Nov. 5, although enough Democrats opposed the bill earlier this month to sustain the veto.

I discussed the military justice provisions in the FY16 NDAA in this post.

Update: Veto. Washington Post report here.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, with its 15 military justice provisions (discussed here), passed Congress this week.

However, according to numerous news reports (such as: this from Defense News, this from Politico, this from Roll Call, and this from the Washington Post), the President will veto the bill. According to these (and other) reports, the veto threat is limited to disagreement over fiscal and Guantanamo Bay provisions in the NDAA, and has nothing to do with the military justice provisions.

Back in June, in this post, I discussed the military justice provisions in the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016. The separate bills went to a conference committee. The Committee’s report was just published and is available here.

The text of the NDAA approved by the Committee contains numerous military justice provisions. I’ve excerpted them into a separate document available here. The provisions are:

Enforcement of certain crime victim rights by the Court of Criminal Appeals (sec. 531)

Department of Defense civilian employee access to Special Victims’Counsel (sec. 532)

Authority of Special Victims’ Counsel to provide legal consultation and assistance in connection with various government proceedings (sec. 533)

Timely notification to victims of sex-related offenses of the availability of assistance from Special Victims’ Counsel (sec. 534)

Additional improvements to Special Victims’ Counsel program (sec.535)

Enhancement of confidentiality of restricted reporting of sexual assault in the military (sec. 536)

Modification of deadline for establishment of Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces (sec. 537)

Improved Department of Defense prevention and response to sexual assaults in which the victim is a male member of the Armed Forces (sec. 538)

Preventing retaliation against members of the Armed Forces who report or intervene on behalf of the victim of an alleged sexrelated offense (sec. 539)

Sexual assault prevention and response training for administrators and instructors of Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (sec. 540)

Retention of case notes in investigations of sex-related offenses involving members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps (sec. 541)

Comptroller General of the United States reports on prevention and response to sexual assault by the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve (sec. 542)

Improved implementation of changes to Uniform Code of Military Justice (sec. 543)

Modification of Rule 104 of the Rules for Courts-Martial to establish certain prohibitions concerning evaluations of Special Victims’Counsel (sec. 544)

Modification of Rule 304 of the Military Rules of Evidence relating to the corroboration of a confession or admission (sec. 545)

The bill is H.R.1735. You can follow it here.

Both the Senate and the House have passed versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 that contain numerous military justice provisions. The Senate was last to act (passing its version on June 18), and the House has requested a conference to resolve the differences.

I’ve excerpted the military justice sections of both bills into separate documents. The House version is available here. The Senate version is available here.

Notable sections include:

  • Section 546 of the Senate version, changing the corroboration rule for confessions to require only corroboration of the trustworthiness of the confession rather than corroboration of the actual matters confessed. The corroboration rule (and its requirement for corroboration of facts rather than truthiness) was at issue this term in United States v. Adams, 74 M.J. 137 (C.A.A.F. Apr. 27, 2015) (CAAFlog case page).
  • Section 557 of the House version, requiring establishment of a database to track all service members – current and former – who have been convicted of a sex offense at a court-martial, for the purpose of ensuring that they are properly registered as a sex offender.
  • Section 549 of the Senate version, permitting an alleged victim to file an interlocutory appeal of certain issues, requiring a CCA to conduct a de novo review of those issues, and requiring the CCA to issue its decision within 72 hours of the filing of the petition.
  • Section 551 of the Senate version, granting an alleged victim a right to Special Victims’ Counsel during questioning by military criminal investigators, but specifically stating that a violation of the right shall not be a basis to suppress any statement given by an alleged victim.
  • Sections 546 and 1159 of the House version, which would require that a victim be allowed to participate in nonjudicial punishment and administrative separation proceedings.
  • Section 548 of the House version, adding a mandatory minimum 2 year period of confinement to the mandatory minimum dishonorable discharge for certain sex offenses.
  • Section 556 of the House version, requiring public access to court-martial documents at all stages of the proceedings.
  • Various provisions in both bills expanding the scope of the role of Special Victims’ Counsel.